Among the things you taught me were what kind of paste to use on my just-after-chemo hair, and how to style it with a headband. You taught me how to wear eye liner, too, and how to talk back to Dr. Batman Earrings. You taught me how wild and hopeful and brilliant the human spirit can be. You taught me how to hold paradox, know dark and light, and insist on the biggest and the boldest dreams.
We met in January of 2014, only days after my hair had fallen out. You wore a hat, and you showed me the tiny hairs growing on your head. You were so proud of them. I was so envious. Our friendship was tenuous: here and there at YACN, a text or a coffee, pictures of each other after surgeries. An immediate knowing was there, though. We knew each other. We could imagine each other. With you, I was visible.
And then we went on retreat together and we were roommates and we had a very special Mama Bear to love on us, and their was a hot tub and we soaked and looked at the stars. We clung to each other. We saved each other snacks from dinner. Our Mama Bear left us steaming cups of coffee in the morning, and you pressed snooze until the last literal second. When they spoke of death and dying, we escaped. We sat on a bridge overlooking the creek, and we dangled out feet. Your shoe dropped and I almost broke my ankle jumping down to get it. When I was in the creek fishing out your shoe, you looked down at me and said to me "I've just spent a year trying not to die. I'm alive. I'm not f*cking talking about death." I remember these words so vividly. So clearly. So instead we laughed until we cried.
We loved each other hard. You were the first person to ask my about the grief of losing my left tit, and to wonder with me, if the inside of your body looked different from your surgery, and what that might mean. And then we met two more women just like us- Aimee and Kristina. We were a cohort. A quad. We were an emergency picnic when someone got bad news. We were an intense and honest and real stream of text messages. We were the place for word vomit and big feelings and cancer jokes. We were mad and funny and we had a list of stupid sh*t people said to us and we thought we should publish a coffee table book. We named ourselves. I don't know who named us, or when we started calling each other CPs, <cancer peeps> but I do know without a shadow of a doubt that you were my CP, and I was yours.
We were going to get old together. We were going to grow wrinkles. We were trying to build our lives. We were doing that even as you got news that was not good. We were witnessing you continue to hope. We were having babies. We were going to rock in rocking chairs and drink old lady drinks and be healthy and live long.
Most of all, you wanted to be a mama. Like me. When we first met, once we laid in bed and talked about how mad we got cancer when we wanted babies. But we also talked about how we were going to have those babies. The embryos you made were your hope on ice. They were your future. They were you. I would give just about anything for you to hold those babies, but I don't need to tell you that. You already know. Each time I cried because I wanted so badly to have the pregnancy our surrogate carried for me, you were there. Each time I panicked a little about a baby, you were there. Each time I worried about cancer during my miracle pregnancy, you soothed me with your sweet words. Each time I thought I had cancer in my toe or that my sore throat was lymphoma, you got your nurse-voice on and comforted me until I believed I was well again. When M was a newborn, you were there at 1 am and 2am and 3am when everyone else was sleeping. And so we'd text: back and fourth about my babies, back and fourth about the ones you wanted.
Again and again and again you asked for pictures of my girls and that meant the world to me. I know how much it hurt to watch people get pregnant, and even so- you wanted more images of my girls, and what delight I had in sharing them. Even as cancer chiseled away at your baby dreams, you held onto your hope on ice- it was a deep knowing, a clear wisdom, an unflappable desire.
I have been reading and rereading our text messages about your babies. About my babies. About hope. They are all about hope. Even when they are angry and sad and bitter and livid, they are so hopeful. Through your words courses the deepest hope I know.
Thank you for loving me, dear one. Thank you for loving my babies. Thank you for being my CP. Thank you for all the chats and texts and late night calls when you had insomnia and I was nursing the baby. Thank you for the sass and the hope and all the love.
I am so grateful I got to know you. I am so grateful we shared big dreams. I am so grateful I have a little piece of you tattooed on my left arm, right next to my heart.
I can feel you in the breeze. It is funny because you weren't much of a woodsy girl, were you? But here you are, whenever I start to panic about who is going to answer my nurse questions or how we will ever balance out our CP quad with you-- there you are, on the gentle breeze. Of course we can only be balanced with you and so we will feel you, in the breeze and in our hearts and in the sunshine.
I am going to wait for you to come and visit, when I am old. I will wait in the rocking chair with the red cushion, and you'll see my wrinkles. Come visit me, you sweet and gentle breeze, you brilliant and blazing and sassy light, you kind soul.
So much gratitude for being my friend, even when I wasn't very friendly. Perhaps especially then.
Love you so, so, so much dear one.
P.S.: I've been missing you, so I made you this video for our CPs. It's in our texting stream for us to watch when we miss you. I love you so so so much.
Chelsey is a digital storyteller, geek, mama, researcher and yogi. She loves to make things and her favorite food is artichokes.